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Security ramps up in nation’s capital after warnings of potentially volatile June

By Whitney Wild, CNN

Law enforcement officials in Washington are gearing up for a potentially volatile June, when major Supreme Court decisions are expected on guns and abortion, public hearings into the US Capitol insurrection will be held and large-scale protests are possible in an already heightened threat environment.

Capitol Police are ramping up security, adding overtime shifts and holding near-daily calls with law enforcement agencies around the metro area, sources tell CNN. Meanwhile, the DC Metropolitan Police Department is launching Civil Disturbance Unit officers to manage several demonstrations and events throughout the month, a spokeswoman told CNN.

“There’s likely going to be at least one if not several decisions that come out of the Supreme Court that may be controversial,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in an exclusive interview with CNN.

“There is, I think, a lot of vitriol,” Manger said. “Somebody would even say there’s hate speech going on between the two sides. And so that’s concerning to me.”

Manger told CNN he worries that protesters angered over the rulings could turn their attention toward lawmakers. The calendar shows protesters could descend on Washington at critical moments. One major event advocating for stronger gun laws is scheduled for Saturday — two days after the first public hearing into the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

The arrest of an armed man near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland early Wednesday has only added to the security concerns around Washington.

The increased security comes as the Department of Homeland Security is warning that threats in the US could become even more volatile throughout the summer and the midterm election season, fueled by election-year misinformation and potential violence surrounding a final Supreme Court opinion in a case that stands as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade’s holding of a federal constitutional right to an abortion.

Capitol Police recently warned officers about an abortion-related “Shut Down SCOTUS” protest slated for next Monday that’s organized by the activist group ShutDownDC. Intelligence officials are particularly concerned about social media posts urging violence against abortion rights protests, according to the Capitol Police memo.

“Like recent large pro-abortion rights demonstrators, counter-protestors are likely, although there are no indications of organized counter protests,” the memo said.

The memo notes ShutDownDC has not committed violence in the past, but instead uses nonviolent civil disobedience, which has resulted in arrests at protests. The group has also protested at the homes of members of Congress and Supreme Court justices, the memo said.

The Department of Homeland Security previously warned that the impassioned abortion debate presents risks to protesters, lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and others, and it warned the threats could come from both sides of the issue.

In addition to the pending abortion opinion, the Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling in its first major Second Amendment case in more than a decade.

Within hours following the leak of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would strike down Roe v. Wade, protests broke out at the court, and within days materialized at the homes of several justices.

Security officials at the court responded by erecting a tall, non-scalable fence around the building two days after the leak. The small police department also has leaned on its law enforcement partners to help fill in the gaps in security, especially for justices. The US Marshals Service has said it is assisting.

Placing an emphasis on the role US Marshals are playing in providing security, two US Deputy Marshals had spotted a man early Wednesday morning outside Kavanaugh’s Maryland home, before the man called Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center to turn himself in, according to an affidavit.

The man, later identified by the Justice Department as 26-year-old Nicholas John Roske of Simi Valley, California, had arrived by taxi outside the home, then “looked at” the marshals standing next to their vehicle, and turned away to walk down the street, the FBI wrote in the affidavit.

He told law enforcement he had traveled from California to kill “a specific United States Supreme Court Justice.” The affidavit said Roske was upset about the leak of the Supreme Court opinion related to abortion rights, an upcoming gun control case and the school shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas.

Roske was carrying a suitcase and backpack filled with a tactical knife, a Glock 17 pistol, two magazines, ammunition, pepper spray and zip ties, the FBI said. He also had on hand a hammer, screwdriver, nail punch, crowbar, pistol light and duct tape.

If convicted, Roske faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for attempted murder of a United States Judge.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that there has been “heightened security” at the homes of justices since last month, and added that “we will continue to partner with both federal and local law enforcement officials to help ensure these residential areas are secure.”

Additionally, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Police Department, a neighboring Virginia county where multiple justices live, previously told CNN it is putting its civil disturbance unit on standby to manage any potential fallout from protests that could spill beyond Washington.

DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Director Christopher Rodriguez told CNN that threats are surfacing almost daily and information sharing is crucial. He declined to specify the nature of the threats.

“The posts that concern us the most are the threats against individuals or specific places,” Rodriguez said, adding that his analysts have recently flagged more than a dozen social media threats as credible enough to warrant further investigation by other law enforcement agencies.

“We’re seeing threats from all sides of the political spectrum,” Rodriguez said.

Manger declined to say if members of Congress will receive expanded personal security details.

“It’s going to attract attention,” Manger said of the January 6 hearings. “I think that that’s a given. But how much attention that attracts, and if it attracts negative attention, that’s how we’ll make our decision in terms of what we need to do, if anything, for security for the committee.”

Further weighing on resources is a new phase of reopening the US Capitol, which will allow more visitors.

Capitol Police have been warning lawmakers for months that they are in desperate need of more officers to bolster security, and Manger says the force remains hundreds of officers short.

He hopes to add more than 200 officers per year, attracting new recruits with an increase in base pay to about $73,000, a retention bonus and more opportunities for lateral moves to federal officers already on the job.

“You get 100 people that walk through the door that want to be a Capitol Police officer, we’re lucky if we pick five or six of them, because it’s just the bar is very high to meet our standards,” Manger said.

“My hope is that we’re not holding people over as often as we did, we’re not forcing them to work overtime as often as we did before,” Manger said. “And because as we all know, it was burning the officers out.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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